29 April 2023

Ballistic Gelatin Testing - Incredibly Useful and Totally Under Utilized

 If you spend enough time in the gun world, you learn about ballistic gelatin. The TL:DR version of what it is, it's a replicable medium that can be used to test bullets for terminal performance such as depth of penetration and expansion of expanding bullets. While gelatin isn't flesh such as deer or human, it behaves in such a way that you can extrapolate data to give you an idea of what a bullet will do down range. It's meant to be used in a controlled way to allow for repeatable results. 

I spent a lot of time researching the efforts of numerous people who have attempted to test numerous bullets from pistols and rifles when I was trying to find the correct carry ammunition. The data I've gathered from YouTube channels such as TheChoppingBlock,  ShootingTheBull410Tools&Targets, Mason Leather, WHO TEE WHOTNOutdoors9, Social Regressive and even Paul Harrell along with Lucky Gunner Labs and others have all contributed to ammunition choices I've considered to be appropriate for self defense and hunting. It's how I ended up choosing Remington's 158 gr SJHP load in the 357 Mag for use in both rifles and revolvers and how I chose Federal's 170 gr Fusion in 30-30 for hunting deer. 

Most of these folks follow some sort of protocol in varying levels. One of the more overlooked uses for ballistic gelatin is for testing hunting ammunition. Several of the above sources have put effort into testing popular hunting ammo but not everyone is testing the same way. Mr. Mason seems to be putting great effort into testing at common distances. Most of the loads tested have been at 100 yards which, according to many people, is typically around where most folks are actually shooting deer and similar animals. All the deer I've ever shot (not that it's a lot) have been under 100 yards. Most of the time I either close the distance or wait for them to get in closer. I've had deer come in close enough I could have spit on the doe. Deer are stupid, that's not much of an achievement. 

One thing I would love to see is, what is the MAXIMUM distance various bullets are capable of achieving and still being effective. Many people have said that 30-30, the old hunting cartridge, is only really good out to 150 yards. Why? Is that because your rifle isn't that accurate? Are your old eyes unable to shoot beyond that? Do your bullets just suck? I want to know. 

Setting blocks of gel out at various distances can be tricky and landing hits possibly hard to do. I got to thinking about it and one of the best ways I could come up with to test this is put these hunting loads into a pistol such as a Thompson Center Encore and shoot at shorter distances. Alternatively, if you can get the bullets and handload reduced power loads. That's probably more economical. 

Depending on the load, 200 yards for 30-30 ends up around 1800 fps. You should be able to achieve that with a barrel length around 10 inches. If you adjust the distance to the block, you can start to reduce the velocity at the target. 

By knowing the lowest velocity your bullets expand, you can find out how far you can actually shoot and still be effective. That is useful. Achieving the goal, though, is tedious. 

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